Families, friends and others gathered May 21 as 10 graduates of Project SEARCH at Seton Healthcare Family celebrated at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas. Project SEARCH is an innovative, business-led approach to gain competitive employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Initiated in 2007, Project SEARCH is a year-long internship for local high school transition students. Interns gain real-world work skills and professional experience through hands-on training in a health care system, with the ultimate goal of competitive employment either at Seton Healthcare Family or with other Austin-area employers.
2014 marks the first graduating class since Project SEARCH tripled in size from 10 interns at one Seton location to 30 interns across three Seton locations - Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin, Seton Medical Center Williamson in Round Rock and Seton Medical Center Hays in Kyle.
Graduation events for Project SEARCH students are scheduled for May 29 at SMC Williamson and SMC Hays.
Roberto Ovalle, one of the 2014 Project SEARCH graduates, was the keynote speaker for the May 21 ceremony. Roberto spent a good portion of his life at Seton and Dell Children's Medical Center. Through Project SEARCH, Roberto said he gained the skills necessary to transition into the competitive workforce.
"I'm not just a co-worker, but also a member of the Seton Family," Roberto told the audience. "My co-workers became my family."
In March 2014, he was offered a permanent position as a clerk for the Administration Office at Dell Children's. Roberto called it his "dream job."
Other speakers at the graduation ceremony included Dr. Mark Shen, Dell Children's Medical Center president, and Geronimo Rodriguez, Seton's vice president for Diversity and Community Outreach.
Additional photos of the Dell Children's Project SEARCH graduation are posted on Seton's flickr page.